The weather was trying its best to fill the city with despair, and the still, black smog covering the sky was making it obvious. Anyone not used to air so dirty would probably suffocate. The city was clogged with grimy blocks, barely leaving any room for small concrete roads, all of them almost empty, making some space for the daredevils who decided to expose themselves to the pollution.
Cirra was one of them.
She was on her way to the orphanage. Her heartbeat would accelerate every time she saw any small movement. A feeling of releif swept over her as soon as she realised it was just another mutated cockroach. Even though it was her usual routine - walking around empty streets was something no-one liked to do. You never knew what you could find out there, and it was always best to be cautious, just in case.
Her heart must've skipped a beat when a sharp, high pitched noise reached her ears. She swiftly turned around as fast as she could, started to run away, then stopped suddenly when she realized where the noise came from.
In front of her stood a small, stray cat, her good friend. He always followed her on the way to the orphanage. He was a intrusive creature, and even if she would hate him, or try run away from him, he would find her.
She opened her bag, and pulled out a plastic sack with her lunch in it. It was almost empty, but she left a small slice of bread specially for him. It could be called a sandwich, but the thin slice of ham was barely noticeable. Food, especially meats were really scarce these days. Most people lived off of a vegetarian diet because of meat prices.
The kitten purred as the feeling of hunger faded. He felt much better, and now started to affectionateley rub against her. Cirra giggled.
"No more for you, Cat." She called him “Cat” because no-one knew his name. He didn't have a collar, and she never heard his owner call for him.
When Cirra walked into the orphanage she was almost mutely greeted by her friend Nyte. As in most true friendships they, didn't remember when or where they met, but were best friends ever since.
“Hey Nyte! Anything interesting happen today?”
“That one guy from our school got, you know...sick today, the one that would always pick on you." He replied blankly. "I'm glad." One could say he didn't have feelings.
Cirra's eyes widened. "You're glad? Just because he picked on me, he deserves to die?!"
Nyte looked down. "That's not what I meant. We're all going to get it eventually, better get the jerks first I suppose." He looked at Cirra with that purely honest expression. "I hated the way he treated you."
Cirra tried holding it in, but she broke into tears. She knew the disease would wipe out everything. It was a terrifying thought, and when she was reminded of it, she would look at people around her, and imagine their funeral. She tried to push these thoughts away, but it was no use. She sank to the floor. Nyte sat close to her, attempting to make her feel better... without success.
"Don't worry, It'll be okay!" said a girl, who appeared out of nowhere. She was one of the most cheerful kids from the orphanage- "When Nyte turns into a doctor, he'll make us all better!"
Cirra smiled, and hugged her. The girl's oblivious happiness gave her hope. "Thank you, Ammi." She turned to Nyte. "You'll be the best doctor someday. I know it."
"Thank you..." he said in reply. Nyte didn't want to be a doctor, but he had no choice.
They took care of the children like they would any other day. Story time, nap time, snack time, then going home at 7:00. Cirra would usually go home afterward, but today she wanted to stay with Nyte. Her mother was sent to the hospital a few days ago, and without her it would be too lonely at home.
"I guess that would be okay..." Nyte started blushing.
"What's wrong Nyte? Afraid I'm gonna make a move on you?" she let out a big laugh. Nyte rolled his eyes, and shrugged.
They stopped by Cirra's one room apartment to get her things. Home without mom felt empty. The usual cozy atmosphere was heavy, and it felt good to get out.
"Cat" followed them to Nyte's house, with one more problem left to solve.
"Where are you going to sleep?" Asked Nyte.
"Wherever you aren't!" Cirra replied playfully.
Nyte took this as an opportunity to be considerate. "You can sleep in my bed, I'll take the couch." Cirra sheepishly accepted his offer. Nyte wouldn't have to worry about his parents finding a girl in his bed. They worked night shift at a hotel, so the only times they were home was to sleep.
Nyte, and Cirra did a bit of studying together, and spent their free time watching television. The news would release the disease's death count everyday. Only 7 people from their city... Cirra turned the TV off.
"I'm sick of all this disease stuff. Its hard to get your mind of it when it shows up EVERYWHERE." Nyte agreed, and picked up a book. Cirra looked around curiously.
"Do you have anything with adventure? A fantasy book maybe?" Nyte shook his head. Cirra looked at him amazed.
"No wonder your imagination is so dull." She laughed. Nyte looked up from his book.
"We're going through hard times, I don't want to waste any second reading something fake." Cirra was actually glad Nyte was like this- a very hard worker. It gave her confidence in him. "Yeah, you'll be a great doctor for sure!"
"Thanks, I guess." Nyte shrugged.
Cirra stood up "I'm gonna take a quick shower."
"Okay.." Nyte said nervously. Cirra giggled.
Nyte's bathroom was really nice, unlike her own. After admiring it for while, she decided to take a long, hot, relaxing bath. She let her mind wander. Thoughts filled her head;
"Could this disease really end all of humanity? It wiped out most of us already... I wonder if I'll live through it... If I don't, will everything be better that way? I hear it isn't very painful... Is this world even worth living in?"
Nyte was finishing up the chapter he was on, when his head suddenly started to ache. Most likely from the amount of eye straining he was doing. Not being able to put the book down, he quickly skimmed through the rest. When the pain finally got too bad, he desperately ran to the bathroom sink.
After splashing water on his face he lifted his head;
"Uhhhhh..." Cirra was hiding behind the shower curtain.
"You okay Nyte?" She tried to replace the embarassment with sympathy.
He left the room instantly without saying a word.
Cirra finished up her bath, and got into her night gown. She wanted to talk with Nyte before going to sleep, but he wasn't in his room. She looked around the house, and found him asleep on the couch.
"Pf, guess he's not as much of a night owl as he says he is."
Trying hard not to laugh she went back to his room, and flopped onto the bed. She crawled underneath the covers, and turned out the light. His bed was warmer than hers. She kinda wished she could steal it. She also liked the way it smelled like him, but would never admit that. It would probably creep him out. Her mind started to wander once more;
"Why did Nyte come into the bathroom like that? He looked desperate. Is something wrong with him?"
The next day went by quickly– Wake up, school, orphanage, back to Nyte's house. Besides the fact that the amount of deaths doubled from the previous day, something else was different. This day Nyte seemed a bit more sad than usual... Or was he just tired? When Cirra asked him about staying at his house again he agreed with even less enthusiasm than before.
"Is anything wrong, Nyte...?" She asked in concern.
"I'm fine, I just have this awful headache. I think I need new glasses."
When Cirra went home to get the rest of her stuff, she decided to check the mail. She crammed all of it into her bag, and poured it out when she got to Nyte's house, separating her mom's mail from her own. Nyte opened one of her letters and began to read it:
"Your hair is like that of a white cloud of crysta--" he was interrupted by Cirra's burst of laughter. Nyte smiled at her, and threw the paper away.
They went through the rest of her mail, when a pale gray envelope with a pretty flower pattern caught Cirra's attention. Weird. She didn't notice it before. It stood out from all the plain ones. She realized that it was from the hospital; It was a list of people who had died from the disease that month. She went through the list anxiously, wondering why would this show up at her house. She scrolled her eyes across the paper for a few minutes, then suddenly jerked away when she saw it.
Her mother's name was there. She expected it, but there was something different about seeing it clear on the paper.
Cirra spent the rest of her day crying over her mother. Nyte sat with her, and tried to help her take her mind from it.
"I'm sure my parents will let you stay here." He said.
Cirra wiped her eyes, and smiled. "Thank you..." She gave him a hug.
Living with Nyte really helped Cirra move on. He was extra nice to her lately, and that weekend he took her to the city's greenhouse. Each city had one, all of them being miles wide, big enough to grow food for everyone. They were the only places people could go to see actual plants, beautiful, delicate flowers in all shades, and trees, big trees, covered in rough, rigid bark, each with a crown of leaves. In these times it was really a rare sight.
"Can you believe these things use to be everywhere!?" Cirra said, as she poked a budding flower.
"No, I can't." Nyte responded in a joyful tone. He was sitting on a bench, sketching the closest apple tree. It was covered in tiny, white flowers. In a world of nothing but gray, they were truly beautiful.
"Is there any specific reason you brought me here?" Cirra asked as she looked at all the plants surrounding her.
"Well... Umm... I just thought it would help cheer you up."
"I smell a lie~" Cirra leaned closer to Nyte, and smiled; expecting him to ask her out to a romantic dinner. Nyte let out a sigh.
"I have to tell you something important.“ He looked nervous. “I thought this would be a good place to do it." Cirra was caught off guard, but his negativity. She gazed at him intently. Nyte swallowed.
"I've been getting headaches along with other symptoms... I feel a very dulled down pain. Its pretty obvious. I'm sick Cirra."
She was devastated.
"Like, heh, you mean... A cold right? Please tell me it's, like, a cold or something!" She started sweating.
"Its not a cold Cirra. Come on, we knew this would happen." He said calmly. He seemed reconciled with his fate. Cirra stared at him with wide eyes, not saying a word.
"It doesn't hurt..." Nyte said in a comforting tone.
Cirra didn't talk much the rest of the day, but after that she tried to make the most of what life Nyte had left.
"How do you feel today?" She asked him one morning when she was bringing him some water.
"Well... It still doesn't hurt, but I definitely feel weak, and extremely tired.." He took the water. "I want to make these last days worth it." Cirra nodded. She took a book from her bag.
"You never had time for these." She handed him a fantasy book. Nyte pushed it away, and sighed.
"I want to spend the rest of my time with you." Cirra blushed, and put the book back in her bag.
"Want to watch a movie?" She smiled nervously.
"No, I just want to talk." He sat up on the couch. Cirra sat with him.
"You know Nyte, this may sound strange but..." She paused a moment "You know those old stories of Nus, and Noom? The beings who supposedly made the earth, and disguised themselves as the sun, moon?" Nyte nodded.
"I... believe in them." Cirra cringed.
Nyte looked at her strangely.
"I don't know.." Cirra sighed. "Something just tells me its true... I can't explain it."
For the next 3 days they did nothing, but talk for hours. The more they talked, the more Cirra hated the fact that he was going to die. But eventually his time had to come. Cirra woke up, and walked to the living room to wake up Nyte.
"Good morning" She whispered. He slowly opened his eyes.
"Good morning." He replied.
"How are you today.?" She asked. Nyte was really pale.
"It doesn't hurt..."
"I wrote something for you last night." She held out a piece of paper to him.
"I don't have the energy..." He said as he closed his eyes. She nodded, and gulped, trying not to cry:
"I know this disease is "impossible" to fight. It's killed billions of people over the past year. Everyone who got it is dead now, everyone who has it is dieing, but somehow I know you will make it. That someday it will fade, and you and I will be alive. This is a list of things we need to do:
1: We need to take care of that cat that's been following me.
2: We need to work at the greenhouse together
3: We need to get married, and adopt Ammi."
"What do you think Nyte?" Cirra smiled. "Nyte?"
There was no answer.
She listened for a heart beat. Nothing. He was gone. There was so much she wanted to tell him. So much she wanted to ask...
Yet somehow she felt she still had a chance. Was it just denile, or was it true?
That someday they will meet again.